I knew seeing Big Freedia in the tiny sauna that it is Holocene would be intense. The diva’s music dares you not to sweat a pound of mussy liquid out of your system.
And yet, two hours before the show, I watched the Trail Blazers defeat the Lakers at a local bar, in the company of four chicken tenders and fries splashed liberally with salt.
I knew what Freedia’s show would entail — namely, azz everywhere — and yet I gluttoned out anyway. By the time Freedia (pronounced Free-duh) came on around 12:30 a.m., I regretted my decision, but there was no going back.
Freedia, the NOLA Sissy Bounce queenpin, has taken a quantum leap in national prominence in the past 18 months thanks to relentless touring and a starring turn in a New York Times’ Sunday magazine article.
Per Freedia: Imagine a 6-foot-5 black man with feminine graces and highlighted hair chanting party-starting phrases while two women around him dislocate their asses. It is a carnival of ass-shaking, bass-rattling awesomeness.
This was my fourth time seeing Freedia in the past six months. I last saw Freedia four months ago at the Holocene. That show slayed me. I had to sit down and catch my breath.
So, yeah, I knew better than to eat those chicken strips and fries.
Freedia took the stage in a black veil and cape. It was an entrance vaguely reminiscent of Lady Gaga. But once Freedia removed the veil and cape the theatrics were done, and the ass-shaking began.
Freedia has two bonafide anthems, “Gin In My System” and “Azz Everywhere.”
“Gin In My System” relies on a call and response chorus to work the crowd into a frenzy. Freedia chanted, “I got that gin in my system”, and the crowd responded, “Somebody gonna be my victim.”
The previous time I saw Freedia I was surprised the Portland crowd knew the chorus. This time I wasn’t. Freedia has become an honorary resident.
The diva even mentioned as much during a break in the set. Portland is like his home away from his home, New Orleans, he said. The crowd whooped and hollered at this declaration.
It was somewhere around “Azz Everywhere” when I decided to take off my Brooks Brothers sweater and get dirty. I got low with the best of them. When I was finished with that, I danced on a nearby couch with @ben_lundin, a fellow Freedia devotee.
It was on the couch that I pumped my fist to Freedia’s next anthem — in which he informed the crowd his new motto was “go homo.” The phrase is a reponse to rappers saying “no homo” in songs, Freedia explained.
Sexuality is at the forefront of Freedia’s music, but it is not at the forefront of the live experience. Audience members, heterosexual and homosexual alike, danced like they had that gin in their system — maybe they did.
By Freedia’s final song — oddly enough, I only think Freedia performed seven or eight songs — I had to get some water and sit down. I was soaked and ready to step out into the cool night air. There had been azz everywhere, and when it was through, Freedia had once again proven herself the Queen Diva of Portlandia.